Salute to the Passing of Duwayne Dietz

Feb. 26, 1929-July 25, 2012

His name was synonymous with sports in Sterling. As a 1948 SHS grad, surely Sterling has never had a faster runner or a finer coach.

As an athlete, Dietz was a record-breaking runner on the track. Later as a teacher at SHS, he coached athletes to break records. Under his tutelage, the SHS track team won 26 conference titles. In addition to countless SHS Athletic Hall of Fame titles, he was also an Illinois State Track Coaches Inductee.

In high school, my dad, a defensive back playing for DeKalb, was assigned the task of guarding Sterling’s star running back.

a great athlete

a great athlete

“Our game plan was simple – tackle Dietz!” my dad recounted, “Only problem, we had to catch him first. We chased him up and down the field all night.”

My dad and Duwayne’s rivalry ended the day my dad started teaching at SHS in 1958. Every teacher who worked at SHS and every athlete who ever graduated from Sterling has his own favorite, “Dietzism,” engrained in his “thick skull.”

“For 25 years we shared the same office, so we told a lot of stories,” my dad said. “Duwayne became a colleague, a friend and a mentor.”

My dad learned the ropes of coaching freshman football as an assistant to Duwayne.

“At halftime of an away game we played so badly in the first half, Coach Dietz loaded the team back on the bus, and threatened to turn it around and drive them back home.”

Coach Dietz on SHS's track field (his home)

Coach Dietz on SHS’s track field (his home)

When Duwayne retired in 1989 after 34 years serving students and athletes, my dad roasted him royally; SHS fittingly named the track after him.

Colonel Dietz

Colonel Dietz

Coach Dietz served his community and his country. As a paratrooper during the Korean War, he made 57 jumps and remained in the Army reserves for 30 years. A decorated colonel – strong, tough, feared and respected – he dressed sharp, stood straight and remained fit. He barked orders in a gruff voice. He was a man of few words, not all of them nice. But underneath the rugged façade was a loving father, caring coach, and strong leader. Everyone at SHS wanted to do right by him.

“Good run, Patty,” he said after my 880-yard dash. “What was your time?”

After he stopped me in the hall to inquire, I worked my butt off in track because I knew the next time he asked my time better be faster.

Everyone at SHS feared and admired Coach Dietz. But his bark was louder than his bite. Like all athletes, I’d jump at his command, then he’d soften the blow with his trademark grin, so that I knew he was kidding (or was he?)

Wrapped within the sadness of his death was also a sense of celebration for a man who shaped so many lives with his hard drive and high standards. Because Coach Dietz demanded excellence, I sought it in myself.

Dwayne Dietz was a Hall of Fame Athlete and Coach who raised a Hall of Fame Family.

He coached one son, an outstanding track star, as well as his son-in-law, a SHS standout football player. He taught with still another son-in-law. He left behind his lovely wife, Ruth, and 5 children and 14 grandchildren. Respected by the community, loved by friends and family, his passing leaves a hole in the hearts of many.

I feel fortunate to have grown up listening to the legends on the breezeway of their old house. His third daughter has been my best friend since third grade. As kids on the block, we all knew Mr. Dietz had our back.

With his parting, my hometown lost a hero. Another part of my childhood slipped away.

Rest in Peace Coach Dietz

Yockway Peggy

Posted in education, inspiration, relationships, sport.

62 Comments

  1. Pat, what a fine tribute to my great friend and colleague, Duwaine Dietz!
    We all have fond memories of our many years of working and playing with him. He was a true friend to all of us.

  2. Thank-you for the tribute to Mr. Dietz. Sterling atheles(and students) were truly blessed with not only good and committed coaches but by truly great mentors in life!

  3. Oh Sister….you did it again: This one brought tears to my eyes. Mr. Dietz was feared and admired in the Halls of SHS! We are blessed to have been taught or coached by him!

  4. Oh Sister….you did it again: This one brought tears to my eyes. Mr. Dietz was feared and admired in the Halls of SHS! We are blessed to have been taught or coached by him!

    • Yes, indeed, Jeff. We were lucky to grow up on E.19th in a community where it was safe to walk to school, a place where our hearts and minds were shaped under the tutelage of such fine teachers, coaches and principals, including your mom and dad.

  5. I loved your tribute to a wonderful man. I did not know Duwayne Dietz. But, these beautifully written words tell of the greatest gifts an educator can give to their students. Information and facts can be important. Far more important are values, self confidence, standards and working towards excellence. As the facts and information fade from our memories these other characteristics remain.

    I wish I had known Duwayne Dietz.

  6. What a beautiful tribute,Pat. You made me feel like I knew him and because of that, I can feel the loss. He certainly left a legacy for many generations to come.

  7. What a beautiful tribute,Pat. You made me feel like I knew him and because of that, I can feel the loss. He certainly left a legacy for many generations to come.

  8. Patty you sure do have a way with words, and you did a fabulous job recounting our Dad’s life. Thank you for that. We will all miss him dearly. I have very fond memories of your dad, another special man, as well!

  9. What a beautiful, touching tribute to a special man. Certainly the Sterling Community is a better place because of the selfless contributions Duwayne Dietz made as a teacher and coach. I am sure his life lessons are being carried on in countless ways and what an extraordinary legacy that is.

  10. Very happy to see that someone memorialized Coach Dietz’s passing and so appropriately captured the essense of what he meant to SHS and the entire community of Sterling. I was fortunate to catch Coach Dietz in his coaching prime (early 70’s)and it was probably the closest I ever came to being in the military. But he combined the discipline with humor and therein was the key to his ability to motivate and lead. So sad that he has departed, but he will live on in the hearts and minds and character of those he touched.

    • Thanks Kent. I still remember your exploits at SHS and know from my own dad that athletes like you were a pleasure to coach. I am sure for Duwayne like my dad, coaching was his favorite part of teaching.

  11. Very happy to see that someone memorialized Coach Dietz’s passing and so appropriately captured the essense of what he meant to SHS and the entire community of Sterling. I was fortunate to catch Coach Dietz in his coaching prime (early 70’s)and it was probably the closest I ever came to being in the military. But he combined the discipline with humor and therein was the key to his ability to motivate and lead. So sad that he has departed, but he will live on in the hearts and minds and character of those he touched.

    • Thanks Kent. I still remember your exploits at SHS and know from my own dad that athletes like you were a pleasure to coach. I am sure for Duwayne like my dad, coaching was his favorite part of teaching.

  12. Coach Deitz brought new exercises for knees and ankles when I was wrestling at SHS. As a result, I have never had knee problems tht many of my friends and collegues are suffering from. I had just told a firend of mine the other day about those exercises.

    • Thanks for writing Lloyd. Could you please send those ol’ Coach Dietz exercises because I can hardly get up and down the stairs…or do you think it’s to late to save my knees.

  13. Coach Deitz brought new exercises for knees and ankles when I was wrestling at SHS. As a result, I have never had knee problems tht many of my friends and collegues are suffering from. I had just told a firend of mine the other day about those exercises.

    • Thanks for writing Lloyd. Could you please send those ol’ Coach Dietz exercises because I can hardly get up and down the stairs…or do you think it’s to late to save my knees.

  14. To all us “Humptees” in this world we will miss you Duwayne! A leader, motivator, teacher, disciplinary, coach and friend. I got the fortunate opportunity to experience every aspect of this unselfish individual. I feel fortunate and I’m certainly a better person for your guidance. Thank you!

  15. Great remembrance, Pat! I remember Mr. Dietz calling me and my fellow frosh football players baby birds (he had a colorful punchline to that one). We would have run through a wall for him, I think. What a great man, teacher, coach, and so much more to his community and family.

    • Baby bird football players, ha ha, Ben…I am sure that is the edited quote! Wonder if my dad remembers that one. Thanks for your tribute to Coach Dietz.

  16. Reporting in from the class of ’65.
    I had both of your fathers for classes, sports, etc. What wonderful men, teachers and mentors they were! Loved them both because they had another great quality that hasn’t been mentioned– they were very gracious men. Even though they could be tough, they were coaches who built character in their students and athletes. Duwayne Dietz and Jim McKenzie are 2 of SHS’s finest ever. They set high standards for the future generations of teachers and coaches to strive for.

    • You are absolutely right, Gary. They were both very gracious and unassuming and always first to credit someone else for their accomplishments. I hope my dad will read your comment, for like Duwayne, I am sure he never realized the impact that he had on students and athletes. I appreciate you taking time to contribute your comments.

  17. Reporting in from the class of ’65.
    I had both of your fathers for classes, sports, etc. What wonderful men, teachers and mentors they were! Loved them both because they had another great quality that hasn’t been mentioned– they were very gracious men. Even though they could be tough, they were coaches who built character in their students and athletes. Duwayne Dietz and Jim McKenzie are 2 of SHS’s finest ever. They set high standards for the future generations of teachers and coaches to strive for.

    • You are absolutely right, Gary. They were both very gracious and unassuming and always first to credit someone else for their accomplishments. I hope my dad will read your comment, for like Duwayne, I am sure he never realized the impact that he had on students and athletes. I appreciate you taking time to contribute your comments.

  18. I’ll never forget the “come on you hamburgers”. I feel truly blessed to have been coached by such a great and admired man.

  19. Coach Dietz was a great coach and I enjoyed the years at SHS in part of people like him. I remember one of his sayings he used on the football players when we would mess up ” you are worthless as t*ts on a board”. Rough but very caring and respected. Jim Mkinzie was a coach that made me feel good about myself. He would walk with me from the school to the football locker room asking me about me with genuine curiosity and encouraged me often. Wow so many good friends and teachers at SHS.

    Jon Salomon Burbank CA

    • Jon, not sure how you found the blog but sure glad you did. I am sending your comment to my dad, who will be so pleased to know you remember him. Yes, as athletes trained on the playing fields of SHS, we sure were guided by some great coaches and caring human beings. Thanks for taking time to comment and pay tribute to the men who shaped us.

    • Jim Zeigler By the way , that was one of my grandfathers favorite sayings, and should read “t**ts on a boar hog!” The old timers had a way of putting a memorable slant on things!

  20. Coach Dietz was a great coach and I enjoyed the years at SHS in part of people like him. I remember one of his sayings he used on the football players when we would mess up ” you are worthless as t*ts on a board”. Rough but very caring and respected. Jim Mkinzie was a coach that made me feel good about myself. He would walk with me from the school to the football locker room asking me about me with genuine curiosity and encouraged me often. Wow so many good friends and teachers at SHS.

    Jon Salomon Burbank CA

    • Jim Zeigler By the way , that was one of my grandfathers favorite sayings, and should read “t**ts on a boar hog!” The old timers had a way of putting a memorable slant on things!

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